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Staging The Impossible

Overview

Staging the Impossible explores the most recent critical thinking on the relationship between the literary mode of the fantastic and the literary genre of drama with respect to modern theatre. While a few monographs treat a particular dimension of the fantastic in drama, the Gothic or the fairy tale for instance, no other volume provides a critically sophisticated introduction to the diversity of fantastic drama written and performed in this century. The essays here lay to rest the illusion that realism is the ...

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Overview

Staging the Impossible explores the most recent critical thinking on the relationship between the literary mode of the fantastic and the literary genre of drama with respect to modern theatre. While a few monographs treat a particular dimension of the fantastic in drama, the Gothic or the fairy tale for instance, no other volume provides a critically sophisticated introduction to the diversity of fantastic drama written and performed in this century. The essays here lay to rest the illusion that realism is the only genuine form of theatrical expression and the notion that cinema special effects have rendered science fiction and the stage incompatible. Competing with the realism of the first half of the twentieth century and the new realism of the second half have been a range of successful theatrical repertoire, including the absurd, the horrific, the supernatural, the mythic, the dream-vision quest, the postmodern, the hyper-realistic, and the science fictional.

Wide ranging in time and space, this volume comprises fourteen essays on the fantastic on the modern stage, assessing dramatic works from the United States, Ireland, England, Western Europe, and the Caribbean. Canonical figures, such as Strindberg, Yeats, Beckett, Ionesco, Cocteau, and Stoppard are studied, along with neglected figures, such as Wassily Kandinsky, better known as an expressionist painter, and Halper Leivick, author of the Yiddish play The Golem, and innovative new performance troupes and individual artists, such as Squat Theatre and Spalding Gray. Concluding essays are devoted to contemporary experimental theatre and postmodern drama. A study of science fiction on stage includes an annotated listing of forty English-language plays. Concerned with the interstice of theatre and the fantastic, this work will be valuable to students and scholars of both, of genre studies, and of contemporary literature in general.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

PATRICK D. MURPHY is Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 When Formula Seizes Form: Oscar Wilde's Comedies 15
2 A Task Most Difficult: Staging Yeats's Mystical Dramas at the Abbey 30
3 The Perilous Edge: Strindberg, Madness, and Other Worlds 44
4 Wassily Kandinsky's Stage Composition Yellow Sound: The Fantastic and the Symbolic Mode of Communication 56
5 Ionesco and L'insolite 87
6 Ambiguity and the Supernatural in Cocteau's La machine infernale 108
7 Beckett and the Horrific 116
8 Multiplicities of Illusion in Tom Stoppard's Plays 127
9 Leivick's The Golem and the Golem Legend 137
10 Dream on Monkey Mountain: Fantasy as Self-Perception 150
11 Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia: A Performance Gesture 156
12 The Shock of the Actual: Disrupting the Theatrical Illusion 169
13 Playing at the End of the World: Postmodern Theater 182
14 "Infinity in a Cigar Box": The Problem of Science Fiction on the Stage 197
Selected Bibliography 221
Index 237
About the Editor and Contributors 243
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